JCPenney, Urban Hydration In Beauty Push For Whitney Houston


Don't you wanna dance? Of course, you do. JC Penney and Urban Hydration are introducing a special collaboration, tapping into the energy around Sony Pictures' upcoming "I Wanna Dance with Somebody," a long-awaited Whitney Houston biopic. Psyche Terry, Urban Hydration, tells Retail Insider how the collaboration came about and how it's coming to life at JC Penney.

Retail Insider: Before we dive into the Whitney-inspired collection, tell us a bit about Urban Hydration's story. You started because of your eczema, right?

Psyche Terry: Yes, we started in 2009. I was a new wife and a new mom and had always dealt with dry skin. I'm also a beauty queen–I'm Mrs. Texas now. So I've just loved pretty products that smell good and look good. But at that point, everything that was good for my skin looked bland and mundane, like it had come from a doctor's office. So we started with clean ingredients to make beautiful hydrating products I could use on myself and my kids.

Retail Insider: And you've been in JC Penney since 2014. How did you make it from start-up to major national retailer?

Terry: I was at a picnic -- a family barbecue. Someone who worked at JC Penney was there, and she had tried our product. She put us in touch with a buyer. JC Penney has been interested in inclusive beauty for a long time.

Retail Insider: The definition of inclusive beauty has expanded dramatically since then, far beyond skin color. How do you describe who Urban Hydration is made for?

I grew up with JCPenney in a single-parent, working-class home. And that's who this is for: working-class moms and dads. No matter what color, age or where they live, we're for them if they have dry or normal-to-dry skin.

Retail Insider: Many beauty brands sell directly to customers, as do you. So what do you gain by being in retail? What matters most about that experience?

Terry: It comes back to how I grew up, experiencing products in stores. And JC Penney knows how to make shopping for beauty fun and affordable. With this promotion specifically, we want people to experience the Whitney Houston movie in real life.

Retail Insider: How did this collection develop?

We worked with Sony Pictures and Tristar. Nicole Brown is Tristar's president; honestly, I was baffled that she'd even heard of our brand. They wanted to work with us because we're a woman-owned brand that's small and nimble. It's a good fit because the Whitney Houston story is about a woman-owned business and a woman-owned brand. There's symbolic synergy.

Retail Insider: And let's hear it for a movie tie-in that isn't about superheroes or cartoons! What are the products like?

Terry: There's a hand collection, all uniquely flavored, made with Vitamin A and E. We call the skincare collection Fresh Glam, and I was very intentional about remembering the legacy she left in my heart. She was always fresh and is in the movie, too. We wanted to capture her energy, illuminating who she was. And we wanted to do it all with our North Star of clean beauty. The body collection is sophisticated and reflects her stage presence.

Retail Insider: You are a Whitney Houston superfan! Why?

Terry: She represented beauty for me. She showed me that I could grow up and be special. And her sound was so special -- her music is a soundtrack for everything that's happened in my life. She was just raw and real and unbothered. And she was out loud -- with love, fashion, and being different.

Retail Insider: To some people, she's deeply tragic.

Terry: Yes, and I love that too. It wasn't very hidden, was it? She was so transparent. And that is 100% what we stand for. We're real people, made up of real stuff. And it's not always pretty. So yes, some say tragic. But I call it authentic.

Retail Insider: How will people meet the collection in stores?

You'll see Naomi Ackie, the actress who plays her, as soon as you walk in. And she's a drop-dead gorgeous replica of Whitney, right down to that glowing skin.

Retail Insider: And at the counter?

That's the fun thing. With the new JCPenney Beauty, we are hanging out -- you don't have to worry about a counter anymore. You've got a whole space to shop now.

Retail Insider: What's the ad plan?

Terry: Urban Hydration, JC Penney and Sony are all partnering to communicate the message socially and online, especially on YouTube. And we're in beauty magazines. And heading into December, there's additional support around small beauty entrepreneurs.

Retail Insider: What metrics will mean this has been a success besides sales increases?

We've already done it. I'm a small business, with seven people, partnering with JC Penney and Sony and telling the phenomenal story of my superhero. I don't know that any other small beauty business, let alone one owned by a Black woman, has partnered with a feature film of this size or a retailer of this size. This is history.

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